LEAH Nolan, a 14-year-old student at Loreto Secondary School, Fermoy, Co. Cork, was recently awarded Junior Individual first place in the Biological and Ecological Sciences category at the 2021 BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibition for her project ‘An investigation into the effects of masks on performance in sports’.
Mask-wearing is enforced across several sectors in Ireland, but it is not required during sporting activities. According to the research conducted by Leah, masks have a statistically significant negative impact on sports performance.
Inspiration for Leah’s research derived from her involvement with Fermoy LGFA. To examine the impact of mask-wearing during exercise, the beep test metric was used.
Ms Nolan was pleased with her findings.
“I am so grateful for the recognition of my research on mask-wearing during sporting activity by the BT Young Scientist. I really missed playing football when we were in lockdown. When we came back, the guidance was that we didn’t have to wear masks and I was curious,” she said.
To examine the impact of mask-wearing during exercise, the beep test metric was used which led to the overall findings by the Cork teen. “When I was researching it, I found loads of opinions that masks impacted performance, but not any studies that actually proved that, so I decided to study it myself.
“The majority of beep test scores were significantly lower with the mask than without. Then I got the averages of the scores and used a formula to calculate the T-value and the P-value.
“I sent a second survey to my sports team and on social media and that was more about general attitudes to masks: Whether they’d train if they had to wear a mask. Half said they would, and a third said they wouldn’t, which I found interesting,” she added.
The Cork student is a participant in Teen-Turn, a mentoring program that strives to provide teen girls with the opportunity to gain hands-on STEM experience.